Sikkim lauds Union Ministry’s proposal to lift tourist restrictions

The Sikkim government and tourism stakeholders of Himalayan state has wholeheartedly welcomed the Union tourism ministry’s proposal to lift the restrictions on foreign tourists who loves to travel to Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Sikkim. Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons and his ministry proposed the plan when they had a meeting with senior Union home and defence ministry officers last week. The restriction will be lifted only if the home and defence minister give nod to the plan.

For travelling in some parts of the Sikkim, the foreigners need to apply for travel documents such as the protected area permit (PAP) and the restricted area permit (RAP). These procedures are due to the closeness to these places with China and Bhutan. The places restricted for foreigners include the Nathu-la Pass on the border with China in East Sikkim, Gurudongmar and Thangu Tsopta Valley in North Sikkim, among others. However, these places are very popular with the Indian tourists. CP Dhakal, Secretary of the State tourism department, gladly received the proposal and believes the lifting of restrictions will result in substantial growth of state’s tourism. “We have not received official communication on the proposal; I have come to know about this from the media, but this is a welcome development. This will help attract high-end foreign tourists and give a boost to tourism in the state,” he said.

Barap Namgyal Bhutia, Vice-President, Tourism Agents Association of Sikkim (TASS), claimed that the removal of restrictions for foreigners had been an enduring demand of the tourism stakeholders. He also said the government should consider lifting the ban of tourists from China and Nepal to Sikkim and increase the number of days that foreigners are allowed to stay in some regions of the state. “We have taken up the matter with the Union government umpteen times over the years. The removal of restrictions will have a massive positive impact on tourism. The ban on the entry of tourists from Bangladesh was lifted recently, but since the process of acquiring permits to visit Sikkim is so cumbersome, not many are willing to take the trouble. Bangladesh can be a huge market for us,” he added.

He even demanded that more peaks should be accessible to foreigners are mountain climbing is having a huge demand, especially among foreigners. 14 lakh tourists’ visited Sikkim last year. The state government is on a spree to double the visitors’ number in the next five years.